Use the Places Utility to Customize Locations in Open File Dialogue Box [Windows]

Karl L. Gechlik 02-09-2009

FileOpenHeadWhy is it that I always feel that my machine is plotting against me?


Yeah I know Windows will do that to you <Insert Switch To Apple or Linux Joke Here>.

There has been one little thing that has been bugging me since I started writing for MakeUseOf way back when. I take an insanely large amount of screenshots and manage images for my posts on a daily basis.

<BeginRant> So when I open my file open dialogue box it always tends to show me the same open file locations on the left bar. Some times it remembers  the last place I browsed it over to and some times it doesn’t. There is no good rhyme or reason to why it does what it does.

Some programs like Outlook open the file box to a suitable folder – so why don’t they all? </EndRant>  But what if I want to replace the links on the left with my most common folders?

Yeah there is a piece of software for that. Let’s help you make use of it. You can download the small 623kb file from here. It is compatible with Windows 2000 upwards, so that means XP, Vista and Seven friendly!


Before installing this application this is what my normal file open dialogue box looks like, pretty plain eh? How many of you actually use My Documents? Do you really think your Desktop is a good place to store stuff? Well I don’t!


Now that I have Simpli Software’s Places Utility v1.0 installed I launch it from my start menu and get to customizing. At first glance this is what the GUI looks like. I pulled down the options next to the choices in the center of the screen. They had a crap load of options but the last one was what I was looking for.



I don’t need all sorts of pre-defined folders to open up. I want my MUO folder and my ATA folder to be on my folder list for open file locations. Is that so hard? Actually it is not. It was very easy. As easy as pulling down those menus and choosing custom. I select the path and I was on my way.


After adding the custom folders or picking some of the predefined ones like My Music, the Users folder or My Pictures you will see each of your new icons appear on the left where they belong. This is exactly how your left bar will look from now on – on all file open dialogue boxes that use this interface.



After setting your options hit the Save key. If you quit without saving you will not have your items show up in the open file locations when you hit File – Open. You can also restore back to default by hitting Restore Defaults and the Test button will bring up a file open dialogue box. This is what I see now after I hit test:


Awesome that is going to save me a lot of typing and clicking! Do you have a favorite little known utility? If so share it with us in the comments!

Related topics: File Management, Windows Explorer.

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  1. Emm
    December 17, 2009 at 7:28 pm

    You can already do that in Windows without using some kind of application. This is done through the Group Policy Editor.

    Just run GPEDIT.MSC and under User Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Windows Explorer > Common Open File Dialog there is the Items displayed in the Places Bar setting.

    It's much more recommended to use this built-in tool for modifying registry settings than other 3rd party applications.

  2. faf
    September 6, 2009 at 12:23 am

    Sorry but this app is already part of XP. If you go to the folder you always save files to and click the tools drop down menu and select add to my places. I also change to small icon view so I can put more shortcuts in the viewable list.

  3. ChrisS
    September 3, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    I was looking for a windows plug-in that offered tabbed windows like a web browser. I found a really nice free tool that also allows you to generate groups of tabs, and you can have a group open when u open ANY folder or windows, i.e. a start-up group. It's very configurable and has a lot more neat tools it and makes for quicker navigation - its called "QTTabBar" @ I use it daily.

  4. ankit
    September 2, 2009 at 9:38 pm

    does not work with vista

  5. zvl
    September 2, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    Wow, great tip! Simple and to the point. Very nice.

  6. Marc
    September 2, 2009 at 11:25 am

    I have WinXP and have installed this utility, customized the menu with a couple of changes, and hit Save. Nothing. When I Save As (Word, Excel, etc) or use File > Open in those apps, I still have default display. The utility did display my customized choices as I went thru the configuration; and also when I hit Test -- but it doesn't work after exiting utility. Even rebooted, just in case, no dice!

    • Marc
      September 2, 2009 at 11:28 am

      Never mind my comment above - I did not notice the "Note" on the utility's site that says it does not work with Office apps (which presumably use different template). Tried it with text editor and it works great - thanks for the tool/tip!

  7. Nick
    September 2, 2009 at 8:07 am

    If you use windows xp, get windows xp TweakUI Power Toy..
    It already has this feature ( plus some others )

    • Earl Lu
      September 2, 2009 at 10:47 am

      Really? I just check my Tweak UI and I couldn't find anything like what this does.

      • Doc
        September 2, 2009 at 12:04 pm

        Common Dialogs -> Places Bar. You have to have the Windows XP TweakUI; it's not in the one for 98/ME/2000.

        • klu9
          September 9, 2009 at 5:25 pm

          That option in TweakUI only offers a drop down menu with preset choices. You can't choose a folder not in that menu.

        • faf
          September 10, 2009 at 3:37 am

          Sorry but this app is already part of XP. If you go to the folder you always save files to and click the tools drop down menu and select add to my places. I also change to small icon view so I can put more shortcuts in the viewable list.

          You can select any locaion.

  8. Shilpa
    September 2, 2009 at 11:05 am

    Placesbar Editor

    This is what I use. Excellent at what it does. It can also change the save dialog in Office products.

    • Colin
      September 3, 2009 at 3:09 am

      I just looked at Placesbar and it seems slightly different.

      The review here states "You can also restore back to default by hitting Restore Defaults", but Placesbar apparently just blanks all the file paths when "Restore Defaults" is hit - therefore I would need to go back and reconstruct all the paths to standard defaults such as "My Computer" etc. Is this true?

      You also state Placesbar "can also change the save dialog in Office products." Can you explain what the implications of this are please?